ZANU PF is wantonly trashing the country’s supreme law, the Constitution, that prohibits traditional leaders from engaging in partisan politics after it enlisted five village headmen as its polling agents in Hurungwe, Mashonaland West province.
The headmen under scrutiny are namely; Takasvika Chishiri (Nyamahapi), Paul Brahim (Kasimure), Maki Kachamaedza (Dambanzara), Yeukai Mupanedengu and Special Brahim (Kamukombe).
Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) aspiring Hurungwe East parliamentarian, Blessing Mandava raised concern over the subtle rigging mechanism, which he has since flagged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
“Rigging of elections is already underway and its coming in many forms. The appointment of headmen as polling agents is definitely rigging by Zanu PF as that is how they are going to intimidate villagers claiming they will be watching them within polling stations,” said Mandava.
“I have raised a complaint with a Mrs Dube who is the ZEC Ward 6 elections officer, who only noted the issue and said she will forward it to the command centre.”
Contacted for comment by NewZimbabwe.com, ZEC Mashonaland West provincial elections officer, Austin Ndhlovu professed ignorance of any provision of the Electoral Act barring traditional leaders from performing duties as polling agents.
“There is nowhere explicitly written that traditional leaders cannot be this or that. I don’t have that at law that traditional leaders have their limitations in terms of electoral participation in electoral law, l will have consult further,” said Ndhlovu.
“What l don’t really know is whether headmen can be election agents, l don’t want to lie and l haven’t encountered that in law, but what l know they have electoral rights to vote for whoever they want.”
The provincial elections boss advised Mandava and other such aggrieved candidates to present cases at multi-party liaison committees at ward level and escalate issues to higher platforms if dissatisfied by outcomes.
Ndhlovu reiterated other laws might preclude headmen and Chiefs from political participation, and not explicitly the Electoral Act, which gives scope of his work.
Constitution of Zimbabwe section 281 and the Traditional Leaders’ Act section 45 and 46 outline what traditional leaders ought to do and ought not to do in respect of politics and elections.
However, traditional leaders often wantonly disregard laws, mostly with impunity.
In principle, traditional leaders must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan
politics; act in a partisan manner; further the interests of any political party or cause; or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.
In May 2018, precedence was set when the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) successfully sued Chief Fortune Charumbira over unconstitutional utterances pledging support to Zanu PF.
The court instructed him to retract the statement, an order he did not abide by. Instead, he has uttered more statements to the same effect with no consequence.
Prior, Masvingo High Court Judge, Garainesu Mawadze in 2015 made a ruling prohibiting traditional leaders from making political statements and declaring allegiance to any political party.